Saturday, 28th August 1773: Cawdor, Fort George, Inverness
Dr Johnson had brought a Sallust with him in his pocket from Edinburgh. He gave it last night to Mr M'Aulay's son, a smart young lad about eleven years old. Dr Johnson had given an account of the education at Oxford, in all its gradations. The advantage of being servitor to a youth of little fortune struck Mrs M'Aulay much. I observed it aloud. Dr Johnson very handsomely and kindly said, that, if they would send their boy to him, when he was ready for the university, he would get him made a servitor, and perhaps would do more for him. He could not promise to do more; but would undertake for the servitorship. [Footnote: Dr Johnson did not neglect what he had undertaken. By his interest with the Rev. Dr Adams, master of Pembroke College, Oxford, where he was educated for some time, he obtained a servitorship for young M'Aulay. But it seems he had other views; and I believe went abroad.]
I should have mentioned that Mr White, a Welchman, who has been many years factor (i.e. steward) on the estate of Calder, drank tea with us last night, and upon getting a note from Mr M'Aulay, asked us to his house. We had not time to accept of his invitation. He gave us a letter of introduction to Mr Ferne, master of stores at Fort George. He shewed it to me. It recommended 'two celebrated gentlemen; no less than Dr Johnson, AUTHOR OF HIS DICTIONARY, and Mr Boswell, known at Edinburgh by the name of Paoli'. He said, he hoped I had no objection to what he had written; if I had, he would alter it. I thought it was a pity to check his effusions, and acquiesced; taking care, however, to seal the letter, that it might not appear that I had read it.
A conversation took place, about saying grace at breakfast (as we do in Scotland) as well as at dinner and supper; in which Dr Johnson said, 'It is enough if we have stated seasons of prayer; no matter when. A man may as well pray when he mounts his horse, or a woman when she milks her cow, (which Mr Grant told us is done in the Highlands), as at meals; and custom is to be followed.' [Footnote: He could not bear to have it thought that, in any instance whatever, the Scots are more pious than the English. I think grace as proper at breakfast as at any other meal. It is the pleasantest meal we have. Dr Johnson has allowed the peculiar merit of breakfast in Scotland.]
We proceeded to Fort George. When we came into the square, I sent a soldier with the letter to Mr Ferne. He came to us immediately, and along with him came Major Brewse of the Engineers, pronounced BRUCE. He said he believed it was originally the same Norman name with Bruce. That he had dined at a house in London, where were three Bruces, one of the Irish line, one of the Scottish line, and himself of the English line. He said he was shewn it in the Herald's office spelt fourteen different ways. I told him the different spellings of my name. Dr Johnson observed, that there had been great disputes about the spelling of Shakspear's name; at last it was thought it would be settled by looking at the original copy of his will; but, upon examining it, he was found to have written it himself no less than three different ways.
Mr Ferne and Major Brewse first carried us to wait on Sir Eyre Coote, whose regiment, the 37th, was lying here, and who then commanded the fort. He asked us to dine with him, which we agreed to do.
Before dinner we examined the fort. The Major explained the fortification to us, and Mr Ferne gave us an account of the stores. Dr Johnson talked of the proportions of charcoal and salt-petre in making gunpowder, of granulating it, and of giving it a gloss. He made a very good figure upon these topicks. He said to me afterwards, that he had talked OSTENTATIOUSLY. We reposed ourselves a little in Mr Ferne's house. He had every thing in neat order as in England; and a tolerable collection of books. I looked into Pennant's Tour in Scotland. He says little of this fort; but that 'the barracks, &c. form several streets'. This is aggrandizing. Mr Ferne observed, if he had said they form a square, with a row of buildings before it, he would have given a juster description. Dr Johnson remarked, 'how seldom descriptions correspond with realities; and the reason is, that people do not write them till some time after, and then their imagination has added circumstances'.
We talked of Sir Adolphus Oughton. The Major said, he knew a great deal for a military man. JOHNSON. 'Sir, you will find few men, of any profession, who know more. Sir Adolphus is a very extraordinary man; a man of boundless curiosity and unwearied diligence.'
I know not how the Major contrived to introduce the contest between Warburton and Lowth. JOHNSON. 'Warburton kept his temper all along, while Lowth was in a passion. Lowth published some of Warburton's letters. Warburton drew HIM on to write some very abusive letters, and then asked his leave to publish them; which he knew Lowth could not refuse, after what he had done. So that Warburton contrived that he should publish, apparently with Lowth's consent, what could not but shew Lowth in a disadvantageous light.' [Footnote: Here Dr Johnson gave us part of a conversation held between a Great Personage and him, in the library at the Queen's Palace, to the course of which this contest was considered. I have been at great pains to get that conversation as perfectly preserved as possible. It may perhaps at some future time be given to the publick.]
At three the drum beat for dinner. I, for a little while, fancied myself a military man, and it pleased me. We went to Sir Eyre Coote's, at the governour's house, and found him a most gentleman-like man. His lady is a very agreeable woman, with an uncommonly mild and sweet tone of voice. There was a pretty large company: Mr Ferne, Major Brewse, and several officers. Sir Eyre had come from the East Indies by land, through the Desarts of Arabia. He told us, the Arabs could live five days without victuals, and subsist for three weeks on nothing else but the blood of their camels, who could lose so much of it as would suffice for that time, without being exhausted. He highly praised the virtue of the Arabs; their fidelity, if they undertook to conduct any person; and said, they would sacrifice their lives rather than let him be robbed. Dr Johnson, who is always for maintaining the superiority of civilized over uncivilized men, said, 'Why, sir, I can see no superiour virtue in this. A serjeant and twelve men, who are my guard, will die, rather than that I shall be robbed.' Colonel Pennington, of the 37th regiment, took up the argument with a good deal of spirit and ingenuity. PENNINGTON. 'But the soldiers are compelled to this, by fear of punishment.' JOHNSON. 'Well, sir, the Arabs are compelled by the fear of infamy.' PENNINGTON. 'The soldiers have the same fear of infamy, and the fear of punishment besides; so have less virtue; because they act less voluntarily.' Lady Coote observed very well, that it ought to be known if there was not, among the Arabs, some punishment for not being faithful on such occasions.
We talked of the stage. I observed, that we had not now such a company of actors as in the last age; Wilks, Booth, &c. &c. JOHNSON. 'You think so, because there is one who excels all the rest so much: you compare them with Garrick, and see the deficiency. Garrick's great distinction is his universality. He can represent all modes of life, but that of an easy fine-bred gentleman.' PENNINGTON. 'He should give over playing young parts.' JOHNSON. 'He does not take them now; but he does not leave off those which he has been used to play, because he does them better than any one else can do them. If you had generations of actors, if they swarmed like bees, the young ones might drive off the old. Mrs Gibber, I think, got more reputation than she deserved, as she had a great sameness; though her expression was undoubtedly very fine. Mrs Clive was the best player I ever saw. Mrs Pritchard was a very good one; but she had something affected in her manner: I imagine she had some player of the former age in her eye, which occasioned it.'
Colonel Pennington said, Garrick sometimes failed in emphasis; as for instance, in Hamlet, "I will speak DAGGERS to her; but use NONE", instead of "I will SPEAK daggers to her; but USE none".
We had a dinner of two complete courses, variety of wines, and the regimental band of musick playing in the square, before the window, after it. I enjoyed this day much. We were quite easy and cheerful, Dr Johnson said, 'I shall always remember this fort with gratitude.' I could not help being struck with some admiration, at finding upon this barren sandy point, such buildings, such a dinner, such company: it was like enchantment. Dr Johnson, on the other hand, said to me more rationally, that it did not strike HIM as any thing extraordinary; because he knew, here was a large sum of money expended in building a fort; here was a regiment. If there had been less than what we found, it would have surprized him. HE looked coolly and deliberately through all the gradations: my warm imagination jumped from the barren sands to the splendid dinner and brilliant company, to borrow the expression of an absurd poet,
Without ands or ifs,
I leapt from off the sands upon the cliffs.
The whole scene gave me a strong impression of the power and excellence of human art.
We left the fort between six and seven o'clock: Sir Eyre Coote, Colonel Pennington, and several more, accompanied us down stairs, and saw us into our chaise. There could not be greater attention paid to any visitors. Sir Eyre spoke of the hardships which Dr Johnson had before him. BOSWELL. 'Considering what he has said of us, we must make him feel something rough in Scotland.' Sir Eyre said to him, 'You must change your name, sir.' BOSWELL. 'Ay, to Dr M'Gregor.'
We got safely to Inverness, and put up at Mackenzie's inn. Mr Keith, the collector of Excise here, my old acquaintance at Ayr, who had seen us at the fort, visited us in the evening, and engaged us to dine with him next day, promising to breakfast with us, and take us to the English chapel; so that we were at once commodiously arranged.
Not finding a letter here that I expected, I felt a momentary impatience to be at home. Transient clouds darkened my imagination, and in those clouds I saw events from which I shrunk; but a sentence or two of the Rambler's conversation gave me firmness, and I considered that I was upon an expedition for which I had wished for years, and the recollection of which would be a treasure to me for life.
Sunday, 29th August 1773: Inverness
Mr Keith breakfasted with us. Dr Johnson expatiated rather too strongly upon the benefits derived to Scotland from the Union, and the bad state of our people before it. I am entertained with his copious exaggeration upon that subject; but I am uneasy when people are by, who do not know him as well as I do, and may be apt to think him narrow-minded. I therefore diverted the subject.
The English chapel, to which we went this morning, was but mean. The altar was a bare fir table, with a coarse stool for kneeling on, covered with a piece of thick sail-cloth doubled, by way of cushion. The congregation was small. Mr Tait, the clergyman, read prayers very well, though with much of the Scotch accent. He preached on 'Love your Enemies'. It was remarkable that, when talking of the connections amongst men, he said, that some connected themselves with men of distinguished talents, and since they could not equal them, tried to deck themselves with their merit, by being their companions. The sentence was to this purpose. It had an odd coincidence with what might be said of my connecting myself with Dr Johnson.
After church, we walked down to the Quay. We then went to Macbeth's castle. I had a romantick satisfaction in seeing Dr Johnson actually in it. It perfectly corresponds with Shakspeare's description, which Sir Joshua Reynolds has so happily illustrated, in one of his notes on our immortal poet:
This castle hath a pleasant seat: the
Nimbly and sweetly recommends itself
Unto our gentle sense, &c.
Just as we came out of it, a raven perched on one of the chimney-tops, and croaked. Then I repeated
'... The raven himself is hoarse.
That croaks the fatal enterance of Duncan
Under my battlements.'
We dined at Mr Keith's. Mrs Keith was rather too attentive to Dr Johnson, asking him many questions about his drinking only water. He repressed that observation, by saying to me, 'You may remember that Lady Errol took no notice of this.'
Dr Johnson has the happy art (for which I have heard my father praise the old Earl of Aberdeen) of instructing himself, by making every man he meets tell him something of what he knows best. He led Keith to talk to him of the Excise in Scotland, and, in the course of conversation, mentioned that his friend Mr Thrale, the great brewer, paid twenty thousand pounds a year to the revenue; and that he had four casks, each of which holds sixteen hundred barrels--above a thousand hogsheads.
After this there was little conversation that deserves to be remembered. I shall therefore here again glean what I have omitted on former days. Dr Gerard, at Aberdeen, told us, that when he was in Wales, he was shewn a valley inhabited by Danes, who still retain their own language, and are quite a distinct people. Dr Johnson thought it could not be true, or all the kingdom must have heard of it. He said to me, as we travelled, 'these people, sir, that Gerard talks of, may have somewhat of a PEREGRINITY in their dialect, which relation has augmented to a different language'. I asked him if peregrinity was an English word: he laughed, and said, 'No.' I told him this was the second time that I had heard him coin a word. When Foote broke his leg, I observed that it would make him fitter for taking off George Faulkner as Peter Paragragh, poor George having a wooden leg. Dr Johnson at that time said, 'George will rejoice at the DEPEDITATION of Foote'; and when I challenged that word, laughed, and owned he had made it, and added that he had not made above three or four in his dictionary. [Footnote: When upon the subject of this PEREGRINITY, he told me some particulars concerning the compilation of his Dictionary, and concerning his throwing off Lord Chesterfield's patronage, of which very erroneous accounts have been circulated. These particulars, with others which he afterwards gave me--as also his celebrated letter to lord Chesterfield, which he dictated to me--I reserve for his Life.]
Having conducted Dr Johnson to our inn, I begged permission to leave him for a little, that I might run about and pay some short visits to several good people of Inverness. He said to me, 'You have all the old-fashioned principles, good and bad.' I acknowledge I have. That of attention to relations in the remotest degree, or to worthy persons, in every state whom I have once known, I inherit from my father. It gave me much satisfaction to hear every body at Inverness speak of him with uncommon regard. Mr Keith and Mr Grant, whom we had seen at Mr M'Aulay's, supped with us at the inn. We had roasted kid, which Dr Johnson had never tasted before. He relished it much.
Monday, 30th August 1773: Inverness, Fort Augustus
This day we were to begin our EQUITATION, as I said; for I would needs make a word too. It is remarkable, that my noble, and to me most constant friend, the Earl of Pembroke (who, if there is too much ease on my part, will please to pardon what his benevolent, gay, social intercourse, and lively correspondence, have insensibly produced) has since hit upon the very same word. The title of the first edition of his lordship's very useful book was, in simple terms, A Method of Breaking Horses and Teaching Soldiers to Ride. The title of the second edition is, Military Equitation.
We might have taken a chaise to Fort Augustus, but, had we not hired horses at Inverness, we should not have found them afterwards: so we resolved to begin here to ride. We had three horses, for Dr Johnson, myself, and Joseph, and one which carried our portmanteaus, and two Highlanders who walked along with us, John Hay and Lauchland Vass, whom Dr Johnson has remembered with credit in his Journey, though he has omitted their names. Dr Johnson rode very well.
About three miles beyond Inverness, we saw, just by the road, a very complete specimen of what is called a Druid's temple. There was a double circle, one of very large, the other of smaller stones. Dr Johnson justly observed, that, 'to go and see one druidical temple is only to see that it is nothing, for there is neither art nor power in it; and seeing one is quite enough'.
It was a delightful day. Lochness, and the road upon the side of it, shaded with birch trees, and the hills above it, pleased us much. The scene was as sequestered and agreeably wild as could be desired, and for a time engrossed all our attention.
To see Dr Johnson in any new situation is always an interesting object to me; and, as I saw him now for the first time on horseback, jaunting about at his ease in quest of pleasure and novelty, the very different occupations of his former laborious life, his admirable productions, his London, his Rambler, &c. &c. immediately presented themselves to my mind, and the contrast made a strong impression on my imagination.
When we had advanced a good way by the side of Lochness, I perceived a little hut, with an old looking woman at the door of it. I thought here might be a scene that would amuse Dr Johnson: so I mentioned it to him. 'Let's go in,' said he. We dismounted, and we and our guides entered the hut. It was a wretched little hovel of earth only, I think, and for a window had only a small hole, which was stopped with a piece of turf, that was taken out occasionally to let in light. In the middle of the room or space which we entered, was a fire of peat, the smoke going out at a hole in the roof. She had a pot upon it, with goat's flesh, boiling. There was at one end under the same roof, but divided by a kind of partition made of wattles, a pen or fold in which we saw a good many kids.
Dr Johnson was curious to know where she slept. I asked one of the guides, who questioned her in Erse. She answered with a tone of emotion, saying (as he told us) she was afraid we wanted to go to bed to her. This coquetry, or whatever it may be called, of so wretched a being, was truly ludicrous. Dr Johnson and I afterwards were merry upon it. I said, it was he who alarmed the poor woman's virtue. 'No, sir,' said he, 'she'll say, '"There came a wicked young fellow, a wild dog, who I believe would have ravished me, had there not been with him a grave old gentleman, who repressed him: but when he gets out of the sight of his tutor, I'll warrant you he'll spare no woman he meets, young or old."' 'No, sir,' I replied, 'she'll say, "There was a terrible ruffian who would have forced me, had it not been for a civil decent young man who, I take it, was an angel sent from heaven to protect me."'
Dr Johnson would not hurt her delicacy, by insisting on 'seeing her bedchamber', like Archer in The Beaux' Stratagem. But my curiosity was more ardent; I lighted a piece of paper, and went into the place where the bed was. There was a little partition of wicker, rather more neatly done than that for the fold, and close by the wall was a kind of bedstead of wood with heath upon it by way of bed; at the foot of which I saw some sort of blankets or covering rolled up in a heap. The woman's name was Fraser; so was her husband's. He was a man of eighty. Mr Fraser of Balnain allows him to live in this hut, and keep sixty goats, for taking care of his woods, where he then was. They had five children, the eldest only thirteen. Two were gone to Inverness to buy meal; the rest were looking after the goats. This contented family had four stacks of barley, twenty-four sheaves in each. They had a few fowls. We were informed that they lived all the spring without meal, upon milk and curds and whey alone. What they get for their goats, kids, and fowls, maintains them during the rest of the year.
She asked us to sit down and take a dram. I saw one chair. She said she was as happy as any woman in Scotland. She could hardly speak any English except a few detached words. Dr Johnson was pleased at seeing, for the first time, such a state of human life. She asked for snuff. It is her luxury, and she uses a great deal. We had none; but gave her six pence a piece. She then brought out her whisky bottle. I tasted it; as did Joseph and our guides: so I gave her sixpence more. She sent us away with many prayers in Erse.
We dined at a publick house called the General's Hut, from General Wade, who was lodged there when he commanded in the North. Near it is the meanest parish kirk I ever saw. It is a shame it should be on a high road. After dinner, we passed through a good deal of mountainous country. I had known Mr Trapaud, the deputy governour of Fort Augustus, twelve years ago, at a circuit at Inverness, where my father was judge. I sent forward one of our guides, and Joseph, with a card to him, that he might know Dr Johnson and I were coming up, leaving it to him to invite us or not. It was dark when we arrived. The inn was wretched. Government ought to build one, or give the resident governour an additional salary; as in the present state of things, he must necessarily be put to a great expence in entertaining travellers. Joseph announced to us, when we alighted, that the governour waited for us at the gate of the fort. We walked to it. He met us, and with much civility conducted us to his house. It was comfortable to find ourselves in a well built little square, and a neatly furnished house, in good company, and with a good supper before us; in short, with all the conveniencies of civilized life in the midst of rude mountains. Mrs Trapaud, and the governour's daughter, and her husband. Captain Newmarsh, were all most obliging and polite. The governour had excellent animal spirits, the conversation of a soldier, and somewhat of a Frenchman, to which his extraction entitles him. He is brother to General Cyrus Trapaud. We passed a very agreeable evening.
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